By Alberto Gilman
Leptondale Bible Church congregation members and neighbors joined together on Saturday, November 12 for the third annual Thanksgiving Meal Celebration and enjoyed home cooked turkey, stuffing, corn, green beans, mashed and sweet potatoes, yams and for dessert, pumpkin and apple pies.
The event planning and preparation were spearheaded by Lucia O’Dowd, wife of Pastor Mike O’Dowd who serves as Outreach Coordinator for LBC Events. The meal is a highly anticipated event for the community along with the recent celebration of the church’s annual harvest festival.
According to Lucia, Leptondale’s first Thanksgiving meal was held in 2019 but in the following year, 2020, the celebration was postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. In 2021, the church hosted the meal once again but instead pursued a food distribution method, maintaining COVID protocols. Now in 2022, the celebratory day and meal has returned to a full functioning buffet style for guests.
As the doors opened for visitors at noon, Pastor Mike and Lucia welcomed and spoke to guests during the afternoon. Behind the scenes, Lucia coordinated with volunteers on what they needed to do.
“I’m just overjoyed at the community’s response to our offer of a community Thanksgiving meal. I am amazed at our church, and how they come together,” Lucia said. “It just brings me joy to look around and see all the smiling faces.”
Guests made their way inside the Leptondale church’s gymnasium and were directed to their tables prepared with Thanksgiving decorations. Children, young adults, young families and seniors all enjoyed each other’s company and the prepared food.
For 30 years now, congregation member Martin King has been preparing food for the church and its members and speaking with him, he shared that he was grateful to see those who came in the doors of the church hall enjoying the food and smiling. “I’m just happy that they’re [community members] happy and enjoying the food. I mean, some people don’t have it, and some people are not gonna have it,” said King.
As visitors finished their meals and thanked the congregation volunteers, new visitors entered the hall and sat down to enjoy their food. “The food is great. A lot of love and cooking went into it. We just want people to be able to come here, be able to feel relaxed,” said Mike DeMeo. “This is a place where they could come and eat and not worry. It’s more than the food, it’s the love of Christ.”
DeMeo, a retired police officer, directed security and maintained guest safety during the course of the afternoon. DeMeo is an Elder in the church and has been a member of the Leptondale congregation since 1981.
“Today is amazing. One of the things that’s really phenomenal about today is the fact that we’re not only feeding people’s physical bodies, but we have the opportunity to fill their souls as well, sharing the Word of God, breaking bread with them, and at times, introducing them to things within the Word of God that they are unfamiliar with,” said Don Foley.
Foley, a retired Airman and current LBC deacon, helped serve drinks and food to the varying guests at the meal and shared his gratitude for the day with his neighbors.
The afternoon continued on with more food being served to the church guests, and the volunteers and additional members who planned the event expressed their thanks and gratitude to all who were able to come and enjoy the food and fellowship.